Sharing the lessons along the way…

Posts tagged ‘attachment’

There is always a choice

“So, I read your blog today…”

Cool, and…?

“Should we take a minute to chat about your anxiety about the next decrease?”

Oh, well, I don’t think so.  I am anxious for all the same reasons I have been anxious each time—just the not knowing, but it feels pretty manageable.  Going below 50% seems a little different, but it is really just the same stuff…

“Ok.  I just wanted to make sure.  What is the plan?  Are you driving yourself?”

Ok, cool. Yes, driving myself.  Wednesday is when it will matter and Duke and I are going to work, so the backup plan for that is the same.  I think I got this.

photo (13)

By the time I had this conversation yesterday, I could hardly remember what my blog was about.  Blogging every day is wonderful, but I do tend to get them mixed up in my mind.

In the meantime, Duke and I had been to HEP in the heat.  I rocked the stairs while Duke, the cutest dog in all the land, rocked the rest.  During this conversation, I was in the floor with the cutest baby in the land.

I hadn’t forgotten I was anxious, but I had been amply distracted.

There really is nothing that different about this decrease than any of the others.  The gradual nature of the decrease in doses isn’t likely to create a scenario that doesn’t already have a plan.

I have been as proactive of a planner for this as I can imagine being, so it is only when I forget that there is a plan in place (and several backups) or forget that I can handle whatever happens, that I tend to feel anxious.  That has happened more in the evenings on the day of the decreases.

If I let myself go back in time to compare where I was early in the illness to some of the symptoms I have started to have again with the baclofen decreases, I can freak myself out a bit too.  I wonder sometimes if that happens unconsciously when I am less distracted.

While knowing the relative order of symptoms from pre-diagnosis, pre-pump years is helpful information, it comes attached with some seriously intense emotions.  Even recalling my symptoms during the pump swap in 2011 has some serious fear attached.

Those emotions are great for my book and for relating my story to others, but aren’t helpful to conjure up now.  Fear isn’t center stage on this leg of my journey.

That was how it was, but it is not what I choose this time.

Summing it up Sunday #1

4 166/365: Simple

(Photo credit: Jer Kunz)

In the life of The Tawny lately, much is happening from week to week.  I share it as it happens, or at least try to keep you caught up weekly.

I do realize if you miss a few posts, you might have no idea what is happening or no idea why something is happening once you stop back by, so I thought I would get into the habit of giving you a brief catch-up post.

This will be the first of many, as I anticipate sharing a lot with you over the next several months.  This one will cover part of May and all of June.  You can find more details by clicking on the hyper-linked words within the post.

I have embarked on a journey I never would have expected to willingly take—ever.  I am taking it with you and sharing with you as transparently as I know how.  It might not be pretty.  There will be some growing pains, but there will be a great deal of growth.

In May, I made a decision to have the intrathecal baclofen pump removed.  I considered many factors carefully before making such a huge decision, as the pump’s delivery system manages my motor neuron disease symptoms really well.

I have spent years very attached to my first pump and this second one has caused much more pain and has created many activity limitations.

In order to remove the pump, the dose has to be slowly reduced.  Right now and until 7/16/13, the dose is 15% reduced.  I can still drive a car and am walking with a cane.  I do see distinctive symptoms returning, which are primarily involving my left lower leg and foot.

I have built a toilet paper tower in my bathroom, have all the assistive equipment I could possibly need for this journey, received my very own pair of big girl panties, and am vacillating between fascination and freaking out as the symptoms of my illness return.

Now that you are caught up in a nut shell, are there other things I haven’t shared that you will be curious about as we move forward from here?

Are you a Drama Junkie?

I have paid really close attention for the lessons in my living situation.  For several months, I have struggled to find my peaceful center in a place that once was the easiest place to find it—my own home.

My neighbors are loud and spend whatever time they have home together fighting and screaming at each other.

Sunday, as I listened (or tried not to listen) to the yelling, I had a series of thoughts.  The first thought was, “Really?  Again?”  This was followed by, “Wait, haven’t they already had this argument?  Aren’t they tired of playing out this same drama yet?”

While little about living next door to them is predictable, the content of their shouting matches certainly is.  I doubt they realize it is the same basic drama over and over again, however.  Most of us are unable to see it as clearly as the objective, emotionally detached “observer” through the walls can.

What I started to wonder was what drama might the objective observer see playing out in my life?  What about your life?  We all have some drama that we play out somewhere in our lives (likely in more than one area of our lives).

We are the dramatic actors and our lives are the stage.

We are the dramatic actors and our lives are the stage.

Would it make a difference if you knew someone could hear every word of your drama?  Before living next to these folks, I would have believed it would.

In fact, before Sunday, I would have thought so until I started thinking about it a bit more.

It occurred to me that as drama is unfolding again and again, we are that much more caught up in it, that much more attached to the outcome we need from creating it, and everything/everyone else is secondary.

I have been there and while it has been a couple of decades, I remember feeling fully justified in disrupting any innocent bystanders’ peace.

Our dramas become the way we meet our needs.  It becomes all that we know and our only means of meeting that need while we are entrenched within it.

When we become aware that we all create drama in our lives, then we can recognize it.  We can use each time as an opportunity to grow through the drama to avoid creating it quite the same way again.

When we realize that we are empowered enough to meet our needs without creating the drama, then we can move beyond it.

It is my sincerest wish for my neighbors to find such awareness and growth in their own lives.

If you could be the “observer” in your own life, what drama would you see playing out over and over again?

Full Circle Fear?

Today, I want to continue to share about the significance of my latest epiphanies, and to share a little more specifically.  The specifics are important if you have read my blog all along, but are most related to my Lessons from the Pump post.  Apparently, I am still learning from it.

Here is the quote I shared in my earlier blog from the book Medicine Cards by Jamie Sams and David Carson that really got my attention when I saw the hawk:

“When you allow your emotions to override your perceptions, the message from hawk cannot penetrate the chaos and confusion.  At this point, you are asked to be mindful of the honest observer’s neutral position, which allows the message to be intuitively and clearly understood, without emotion coloring its true meaning.”

Hawk’s message is to be aware or to beware of what happens next.  Hawk’s sound and sudden landing on my back fence the other day certainly got my attention.  I had spent the previous day pretty much stuck in my own head and worrying about losing everything all over again.  As I have shared, fear has been my house guest for some time.  She was never in the room while I was working on my manuscript, but she hasn’t really left me in recent months.

The morning before I posted my Fear Twice Reflected, I awoke from my pain in the early morning hours to a running drama in my mind.  I was trying to figure out how I would wheel my manual wheelchair to the bus stop down my street.  The sidewalk isn’t great in either direction, so I was trying to figure out which way would be the better way to go.

You are probably reading this and thinking, “What in the world is she thinking about?”  Let me give you the short version, so that I can continue to share just how powerful hawk’s visit was for me.

Most of 2012 for me has involved appeals to Social Security regarding my Medicare coverage.  Without Medicare coverage, I cannot continue to get my intrathecal baclofen pump refilled or medically managed.  With my pre-existing conditions, I would never be able to find health care. 

Because I have responded so well to treatment, I no longer fit into their definition of eligible.  I have tried to convey that while I have responded well to treatment and am paying back into the social security system by working, I would not be able to continue to do so without continued treatment.  I am on appeal #3 and there is one more available after this one.

My bathroom mirror!

I believed fear was here showing me my strength because I know that whatever happens, I will be ok and live to tell the story.  That is why I wrote what I wrote on my bathroom mirror that I shared in Fear Reflected.  As I shared in the previous post, hawk drove that a bit farther home by reminding me that I am too emotionally attached to see the bigger picture of the situation and the potential solutions. 

I had two friends who were trying to give me a different perspective on life without Medicare that included the pump refills, but all I could see (feel actually) was that I needed to figure out how to keep working at the homeless program with Duke and keep teaching online from the wheelchair and on sedating medications.  I was even formulating this plan in my sleep apparently.

What it was generating was gallons of tears and even more drama inside my head because I was trying to figure out the logistics of managing the worst-case scenario.  So, I listened to my own audio blog Just Imagine a few times, trying to shake it loose out of my head.  Finally, I talked to a good friend of mine and told her of the drama playing out inside my head. 

Suddenly we are talking about figuring out how to get the pump refilled without health coverage and those logistics, rather than the other logistics involving wheelchairs and such.  I couldn’t quite get on board with her when we were talking, but she seemed to be so confident in our ability to figure those logistics out that I agreed to get on board with her belief about it for the day.

I was sharing this with another friend a couple of days later and she informed me that she too was trying to get me to hear that same perspective.  I couldn’t get past my emotional attachment to hear her.  Now I hear them both and am on board. 

237 - Concentric circles

237 – Concentric circles (Photo credit: MrB-MMX)

In Lessons from the Pump, I share what not having the pump means to me.  I associated medical coverage with keeping the pump.  A LOT of intense emotions are connected to all of that, in spite of my best efforts to let them go. 

I see it as a nice measuring stick of where I started from emotionally when the pump drama began in 2010, continuing through now.  It seems to have cycled around to full circle. 

Perhaps this gives you a little more insight into all the opportunities I have had to work cooperatively with my fear this year.  What opportunities have you had to work with yours so far this year?  Have you welcomed them or resisted them?


Fear Twice Reflected

HawkYesterday morning, a hawk came to visit me with a message.  Only twice has a hawk come to visit my yard, and both of those times someone else was here, so the message was most likely for them.  Given that I just had the epiphany about fear the night before, the following message added even more to my epiphany. 

Here is the gist of the message, as I understood it, after reviewing several sources on animal totems:I need to step back and get a larger perspective of a situation that has become so stressful for me.  I have let myself become too emotionally attached, and I am no longer the detached observer of my life.  This is the quote from the book Medicine Cards by Jamie Sams and David Carson that really got my attention:

  “When you allow your emotions to override your perceptions, the message from hawk cannot penetrate the chaos and confusion.  At this point, you are asked to be mindful of the honest observer’s neutral position, which allows the message to be intuitively and clearly understood, without emotion coloring its true meaning.”

What I realized as I read this information was that I have had fear visiting me, not just to remind me of my strength, but also to remind me that when I am emotionally attached to a person, place or situation, my perception/perspective of it becomes skewed.  This emotional attachment also seems to interfere with my ability to access my personal power

I didn’t get the connection between my emotional attachment and fear before quite like this when I wrote my Fear Series (Act II specifically).  If I am truly being a neutral observer, from a detached perspective, I am more empowered to deal with any situation that arises.  I will intuitively know what the next action is needed, even if that means surrendering entirely.

Detachment is an often misunderstood concept.  I used to misunderstand it myself.  If you are able to detach from a situation, then you are able to remove the emotion and see the situation for what it is, right now.  When we include emotion into our responses or reactions to situations, we are also attaching all of our past similar emotions based on similar experiences.  This is just how our brains work. 

To be present in the moment only with the situation, we have to detach to some degree.  Let me give you a simple example.  You are having a conversation with someone about something very important to you.  They interrupt you and begin to talk over you about something that relates to themselves.  You notice that your body is reacting—your face is flushing, you are hot, your heart is racing and your stomach sinks. 

This reaction is based on your past experiences with being invalidated, not being heard or something similar.  Your body may be reacting to the past, but if your mind is in the present, you can observe this physiological reaction and dissect it before saying or doing something you might regret later.

If you are present, you can see that you are reacting to the past.  You can recognize that you are associating this person and this present conversation with some hurtful ones from your past.  In order to observe it and work with it, you have to be detached.  When you are detached, you are present.  When you are detached, you are able to respond rather than react.  You notice what you notice, and without judging it, continue on to the next moment.

Detaching allows you to see your life from a more conscious and more accurate perspective.  Your perceptions and sensations are heightened, and you will find yourself less weighed down by your emotions and the past.  In hawk language, this allows you to fly above your life to see the bigger picture more clearly.

Hawk Fly OverThis concept of detachment used to be confusing because my past idea of it was associated with a lack of emotion.  I can assure you that nothing I do is devoid of emotion as I am a very emotional human being.  Removing an emotional attachment to some person, place or thing does not mean we feel nothing for it.  It means we aren’t consumed by it and that we can see it clearly without all of our past baggage, in spite of our feelings for it. 

Today, I had the opportunity to step away from this situation with some help from a friend.  I was able to shift my perspective just enough to remove some of the emotional attachment.  This made room for potentially creative solutions to the problem that had been clouded by the emotion.  In my next post, I will share more about that.   

In the meantime, tell me about your experiences with emotional attachments to people, places or things.  Did you see the fear connection before I did?

Fear: Curtain Call

It is always my hope that you may take something from what I write to help you in your own journey.  I am certainly always reaping the benefits of what I write, and love having the opporunity to share it with you! 

As the curtain begins to close on Fear to end this series, I would like to recap what we have learned about Fear to pull it all together.

  1. Fear is present when we give someone or something our personal power.  You can begin to notice when this occurs by thoughts like, “I would never be happy without _____.”  Remember that you have the power to create what happens next in your life—that power is inside you, not outside of you.
  2. Fear is present when we develop unhealthy attachments to things, places or people.  You can hone your awareness of attachments by noticing thoughts like, “____ is my reason for getting up in the mornings.” Or “I feel whole because of _____.”  Change and impermanence are the “givens” in this life.  You are already whole and believe it or not, you are physiologically programmed to wake up each day without an external reason.
  3. Fear is not present when we are present.  If we are fully present in the moment, right now, there is no room (or purpose) for fear.  Try to remember a time when you were so engrossed in an activity that you lost track of time.  Create your life so that it revolves around more of these activities!
  4. Fear serves a purpose in our lives and can be our ally.  By paying attention to whatever fear is saying to you, you can better understand it, and therefore better understand yourself.  We cannot better understand anything without first taking the time to look at it and be with it.
  5. Fear loses its power over us when we can look at it through the eyes of love and compassion.  This is a process, so perhaps start with a smaller goal.  Try making it your goal for an hour or a day to send love to the things or people in your life that annoy you.  See how this can become automatic after some practice, and then work your way back to Fear from there.

I cannot tell you how thankful I am to have you to share in this process.  This series, as well as my Box series, has been quite the catalyst for me in my own life. 

The visualization exercise I shared is how I experienced it.  I decided to take time to write Fear a letter with my own list of questions after Act III tried to keep it simple, so that your mind could fill in the rest of the details.  The general scene and conversation that took place was how it unfolded for me.

When my first fearful memory came right to mind, and then when Fear shared with me that she had been there for me because I needed her, it truly was transforming for me.  My perception shifted more fully to having a collaborative relationship with Fear.  So much so, that I decided to do the same type of exercise with my pain–perhaps I will share that with you as well, although pain and fear seem to be kissing cousins and it might be a bit redundant.

If you couldn’t find 10 minutes or were too anxious to try the Intermission activity, not to worry, it will be in cyberspace for you when you feel you are ready.  It is my gift to you because the experience was indeed a gift I was ready to receive. 

As Fear takes a bow and exits stage left, please feel free to share your experiences, thoughts, questions or struggles about this Fear Series in the comments below. 


Kitt O'Malley

Bipolar Writer and Mental Health Advocate


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